Tag Archives: Leadership


Asking the question, “What’s your why?” has become fashionable to the point of cliché. The intent is to explore purpose and personal meaning. In the workplace, companies are structured like ladders with each organizational layer asking (and ideally solving), “How, When, Who, What and Why” questions. Companies with work execution problems must resolve their “How–Why” gap to achieve organizational alignment.

Breaking Down The How-Why Gap

So what is the How–Why gap? Employees who ask a lot of “how?” questions are most likely working at the ground level – where the work gets done; making journal entries, receiving and shipping goods, or producing widgets. Employees who ask “when?” and “who?” questions, are likely planners / schedulers, front-line supervisors or entry level managers. People who ask “what?” questions are people who prioritize work – Senior Managers and Directors. At the pinnacle of the organization, members of the C-suite often find themselves asking a lot of “why?” questions to set strategic priorities and the purposes of the organization.

“The frontline often does not understand why, and the Executives often don’t understand how.”

When front-line employees venture to ask why questions amongst themselves in the breakroom, they often lack insight into the forces that drive the why strategies. By the same token, it is rare for Executives to understand how the work gets done. Simply put, the frontline often does not understand why, and the Executives often don’t understand how. The greater the misalignment between the why actions taken by the C-Suite and the how execution on the shop floor, the stronger the cultural cognitive dissonance throughout the organization. I call this the “How-Why” gap. Scott Adams, the creator of the workplace cartoon “Dilbert” became famous by satirizing the “How–Why” gap between Dilbert and the Pointy-Haired Boss.

Aligning the How, the Why and everything in between

Reconciling the “How–Why” gap is where USC Consulting Group shines. Many consultants offer Executives ideas on emerging strategies, but few consulting companies get to the how of a company’s point of work execution problems. USC does this by working hand in hand with shop floors, ground level staff and front-line supervisors. We trace activities from their origin through to their completion and identify improvement opportunities along the process journey.

But USC doesn’t stop at understanding how the work gets done, we move up the work ladder to address misalignments with the Who and When, the What and the Why challenges facing the organization. Once insight is gained into the current state, we dive deeply into planning and scheduling inefficiencies where who and when questions are resolved. As one of our senior partners is keen to remind us, USC stands for the “Universal Scheduling Company.” Not only is master scheduling and resource capacity planning our heritage, but it is literally part of our name.

Getting answers to what questions can be among the most challenging because these questions demand prioritization. Managers and Directors who are embroiled in answering what questions are often battling for limited resources (budget and headcount), trying to keep their personal initiatives high on the priority list. This rung of the ladder is where most corporate politics are fought out.

USC Consulting Group’s expertise is developing continuous process improvement action plans that narrow How–Why misalignments. As the improvements we recommend take hold, the cumulative brainpower of the human capital in your organization is unleashed improving cycle times, availability, throughput, cost, quality, reliability, or any KPI that measures the effectiveness of your company’s why. Front line employees can answer “how do we execute our why?”  Managers can answer “who will execute our why and when will we do it? Directors can answer, “what initiatives need to be prioritized to execute our why?” and Executives can effectively map the strategic course to answer, “what is our organizational why?”

This detailed infographic illustrates the importance of each role and how to achieve optimal organizational alignment:

The How-Why Gap Infographic

If your company needs help with organizational alignment and closing your How-Why gap, please contact us today.

Need more horsepower for your change management project

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Leo Tolstoy once said: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.

How true that is. Sure, he was talking about the Russian Revolution, but the words of the author of War and Peace, considered by some to be the greatest novel ever written, are just as applicable in today’s manufacturing workplaces as they were back then. It’s especially true when manufacturers are going through the process of implementing Lean Six Sigma.

When you’re talking about a culture change as big as Lean Six Sigma (LSS), it can feel a bit like your company is going through a revolution. And as Tolstoy so astutely pointed out, changing the “world” — your workplace culture, processes and procedures — is all well and good, but changing oneself and one’s role in it? Is that really necessary? As hard as it is for many managers and top leadership to hear, the answer to that question is “yes.”

It’s hard to hear and even harder to accept because, inherent in the concept of change is the notion that you were doing something wrong. People who have been on the job awhile, from the workers on the front lines to the people in the corner office, are resistant and, dare we say, defensive about that notion. But it’s not about companies doing something wrong. It’s about finding opportunities for greater efficiency, throughput and, frankly, profit.

At USC Consulting Group, we help companies implement LSS. Our Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Dr. Frank Esposto, leads many of these implementations. But as Frank tells companies, LSS isn’t just about a new set of tools and operating procedures. It’s about culture change, too. And managers and top brass embracing that change is crucial to LSS success.

Lean Six Sigma 101

Here’s a quick rundown of Lean Six Sigma.

The whole concept of Lean started with either Henry Ford or Toyota, depending on who you ask. The idea was identifying and eliminating waste in manufacturing operations. Toyota called them the “seven deadly wastes” and that term stuck. At USC, we added an eighth. They include:

The goal is to create greater efficiency on the line.

Six Sigma is a set of techniques aimed at reducing (in a perfect world, eliminating) the probability that an error or defect will occur in the process.

Together, as Lean Six Sigma, the two methodologies pack a punch of efficiency and perfection. LSS enables companies to produce better product faster, increasing throughput and quality.

Learn more about LSS in our eBook – Lean Six Sigma: Do You Really Know These Methodologies?

Why culture change is so important to LSS success

There’s a perception out there that Lean Six Sigma is simply a series of process improvements designed to eliminate waste and increase quality. It is that, for sure. But it also requires the aforementioned culture change. A change in attitudes and behaviors. Everyone, from frontline employees to the corner office, needs to be on board or this change won’t stick. You’ll slide back into your old ways.

It’s vital for the workers performing new processes to embrace those changes. But it’s just as vital for managers and supervisors and the top brass to change, too. Remember, you can’t change the world without changing yourself first.

What managers can do to embrace change

In order for the LSS changes to be sustainable, managers and executives need to demonstrate to employees that they’re on board. And that doesn’t mean sending out a memo of encouragement. It means changing daily work habits, just like employees are expected to do. A few ways to do that:

Walk the floor. This is arguably the most important piece of this puzzle for management. Get out of the office and onto the shop floor. Get into the trenches with your frontline employees. Show them you’re all in.

Ask senior employees for advice and input. You know who we’re talking about. The men and women who have been on your frontlines forever. Shift supervisors. Trusted workers. The people actually doing the job day after day. When you’re in the process of implementing LSS, their input is vital. Not only to the success of the project, but to their buy-in as well.

Roll up your sleeves. If it’s crunch time and you’re shorthanded, take off that suit coat, roll up your sleeves and help out any way you can.

Over the years, we’ve seen how companies that embrace change will succeed in becoming more efficient and profitable. Those that don’t may simply slide back into their old ways.

For leadership teams leading the charge for culture change, we lean on advice from Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.

Lean Six Sigma - Do You Really Know These Methodologies eBook

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To help companies reach their highest potential, executives need to understand the challenges that come with owning and operating a business. Whether it’s finding creative solutions for operations management, developing products that can survive a competitive marketplace, or building a team of directors and officers, it’s no surprise that in today’s competitive landscape, executives must always look for ways to improve their company (both internally and externally) if they want to take things to the next level.

That being said, there is more than one roll-up-your-sleeves type of leader who seems to have gotten it right. Of course, their success didn’t come without hardships, obstacles, or lessons learned but it can appear that way on the surface. Not all successful leaders have to be entrepreneurs but there is creative problem solving that goes along with the territory of risking it all for a venture yet to be navigated.

Allow this cohort of self-made billionaire startup founders to inspire you by noting their successes and hiccups. Based on their years of experience in the startup world, Embroker has gathered 13 lessons from these iconic startup leaders to point you in the right direction whether you are seeking a new marketing strategy, launching a new product, or recruiting new team members. Check out the infographic below to learn more about the lessons of the most successful entrepreneurs to overcome executive challenges.


13 lessons learned from the experiences of self-made billionaires to overcome executive challenges infographic


Learning from experience is pivotal to success when facing executive challenges. If you need guidance in operations management, contact USC Consulting Group today and put our 50 plus years of experience to work for you.

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